Issue Profile: Time to Reconsider a Balanced Budget Amendment

Mar 19, 2012

It's budget season again. The dust has settled on President Obama's farce of a budget, which continued high deficits and massively increased our debt-to-GDP ratio. Now a new fight is ahead of us as just this morning, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his FY2013 budget, which would set our nation on a path towards fiscal discipline and a balanced budget.

But aside from these important reforms, our government must be forced to live within its means; otherwise our children and grandchildren will find themselves exactly where we are now once again. Enter a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA).

We spoke at length about the BBA last year during the debt limit debate, and since the Budget Control Act signed last year didn't include a BBA like many conservatives wanted, it's time to bring up the subject again now.

Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL) introduced a BBA last year (H.J.Res.56) that accomplishes exactly what it should: not only does it require Congress to balance the budget every year, but it forces them to do it by controlling runaway spending instead of continuously taxing hardworking Americans by requiring two-thirds roll call vote (meaning everyone voting must be on the record) of each chamber in order to hike taxes. The BBA would also:

  • Require the federal budget to be balanced unless two-thirds of each chamber, by a roll call vote, authorizes an unbalanced budget;
  • Caps spending at 18% of gross domestic product (GDP) and would require two-thirds of each chamber, by a roll call vote, to authorize higher spending;
  • Directs the President to submit a balanced budget to Congress every year;
  • Requires a two-thirds roll call vote to impose a new tax or raise existing taxes;
  • Congress could waive the balanced budget when 1) a declaration of war is in effect and the increased spending is authorized by a majority roll call vote of each chamber and 2) under other specified military conflict if Congress authorizes the waiver by a three-fifths roll call vote of each chamber, and;
  • Self-enforce the BBA by prohibiting a federal or state court from ordering any increase in revenue to enforce this article.

Just like every family in America, our government needs to live within its means. It may be time to revisit the Balanced Budget Amendment introduced by Rep. Walsh.